Volvo Ocean Race team Groupama are on the first day of racing in Leg 6, from Itajad, Brazil to Miami. As night fell yesterday (Sunday), the sailors were caught off guard. Throughout the night, the five Volvo Open 70s still racing have been in close contact, making over 20 knots of boat speed. However, from this evening, the fleet are entering a transition zone with an easing wind, which could reshuffle the cards.
'It's sad to leave Brazil. We were really given a fantastic welcome. Right now, we're bound for Miami!' admits Brad Marsh, wrapped up in his foulies to protect himself from the plumes of water on deck just hours after leaving Itajai. 'It was a boisterous start. Even though there wasn't a lot of wind on the coastal course, we managed to make it difficult for ourselves', said Charles Caudrelier ironically. And though the proverb says 'he who takes it slow and steady, goes a long way', there are some 4,800 miles (8,890km) to reach Miami. As such, the crews have quickly got into their watch systems and those on rest watch make straight for their bunks in a bid to try to get some sleep. You have to get back into the swing of things and, as luck would have it, the sea is flat, which is making life aboard Groupama 4 more than bearable in the reaching conditions.
The minute they were around the final mark of the coastal course, the competitors quickly set a course to the North-East to head offshore and hunt down the strong winds forecast. It didn't take Groupama 4 long to hook onto the twenty knots or so of south-easterly breeze, which is propelling Franck Cammas and his men along at speeds of nearly 20 knots. At nightfall (around 2200 UTC), the French boat was still within sight of three rivals - Telefonica, Abu Dhabi and Camper. At that point, the crew decided to carry out a sail change, which rallied everyone on deck, so as to adopt the same configuration as their rivals. That saw the start of a pure drag race, where every adjustment counts. All the sails are stacked on the outside and the stowage arrangement has to get sorted down below.
In the depths of the Brazilian night (early morning in Europe), Groupama 4 positioned herself to windward of the fleet, in the wake of Telefonica, creating a lateral separation with Puma of around eight miles. As expected, the south-easterly wind is beginning to ease and the competitors are now racking up speeds of just nine knots or so. This outside separation is an interesting position for the next stage, as it will be necessary to avoid the zone of disturbed winds level with Cape Frio. This transition zone between the southerly wind and a front rolling in from the North-East is likely to hang around for 300 to 500 miles. By avoiding getting too close to shore, the French boat should suffer less disruption than her rivals.
Positions at 1300 UTC on 23/04/2012:
1. Camper 4,503.9 miles from the finish
2. Abu Dhabi 0.4 miles astern of the leader
3. Puma 1.0 miles astern of the leader
4. Telefonica 8.0 miles astern of the leader
5. Groupama 10.5 miles astern of the leader
Sanya - DNS (won't participate in this leg following damage on the leg out from Auckland and will rejoin the fleet in Miami)
Groupama Sailing Team website
by Franck Cammas
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4:35 PM Mon 23 Apr 2012GMT
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